Anthony Bourdain’s Quest For Old School Vegas

Ana de la Cámara Ana de la Cámara

Anthony Bourdain’s Quest For Old School Vegas

Anthony Bourdain was an extraordinarily gifted chef and writer.

He made food and different cultures around to world accessible to all who watched and read his work. His love and admiration for food and the people who make it was contagious and he will be deeply missed.

Bourdain’s career in the food industry began in the kitchen. He worked his way up and eventually ran various restaurant kitchens in New York City, like The Supper Club, One-Fifth Avenue, and Sullivan’s before his television career. In 1998 he was named an executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles. After parting ways professionally, they continued to refer to him as their “chef at large.” Bourdain rose to mainstream fame with his New York Times bestseller nonfiction book, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. The book was a loose collection of humorous anecdotes revealing the edgier and less glamorous side of high-end restaurant kitchens.

His no-nonsense and adventurous spirit translated excellently into the television landscape. His first ever show, A Cook’s Tour, was on The Food Network. There, much like in the rest of his shows, he traveled the world and somewhat grumpily took us along on his culinary adventures. The show lasted from 2002 to 2003. It was followed up with No Reservation, by The Travel Channel which ran from 2005 to 2012. He continued writing and published 13 books in his lifetime. He later hosted The Layover 2011-2013 also with The Travel Channel and Parts Unknown from 2013-2018, for CNN. Anthony Bourdain passed away in 2018 and is missed by all who knew him and the fans and friends he made along the way. If he taught us anything, it would be to travel far, explore different cultures and eat great food.

Bourdain visited Vegas on different occasions and always seemed to be chasing the Rat Pack, dive bar, Dean Martin, Hunter S. Thompson side of old Vegas. Unlike many who focus on The Strip, he had one eye peeled on the elusive “real” Vegas. We’ve made a list of the places Tony visited.

Bouchon Bistro- The Venetian

Anthony Bourdain referred to Thomas Keller, creator of Bouchon Bistro, as one of the best chefs in the world. Thomas Keller’s French cuisine has won almost every award possible. His restaurant The French Laundry in California is one of the most celebrated restaurants, and Anthony Bourdain called it “the best restaurant, ever.” Chef Keller’s casual french dining experience, Bouchon Bistro is tucked away in the Venezia Tower. There you’ll enjoy fabulous french bistro food you won’t easily forget. The french fries are definitely Anthony Bourdain approved!

Location: 3355 Las Vegas Blvd S 10th Floor, Las Vegas

Double Down Saloon

In a 2005 episode of his earlier show “No Reservations,” Bourdain visited “The Happiest Place On Earth” or the Double Down Saloon. The quintessential anti-Vegas clubhouse for “the lunatic fringe.” The saloon is just one block south of The Hard Rock Cafe Hotel.

Beauty Bar

Another eclectic bar Anthony Bourdain visited back in 2005 is The Beauty Bar. There you could get a beauty treatment whilst enjoying a fabulous cocktail. Now the Beauty Bar seems to be a regular Salon sans the cocktails. Back when Bourdain visited, Frankie “Da File” Ricco gave him a manicure. He was quite a character, a sort of mascot for the bar. His Robert Deniro lady killer charm explained his six marriages and reputation. He was old school Vegas and gave Bourdain the top three rules when in Sin City:

1. Don’t screw the locals over.

2. If you are walking down The Strip and you see someone you know, you walk right past them. “I don’t know nothing from nothing; that’s how it used to be back in the day.”

3. Never gamble with scared money, ever. You’ll never win.

Location: 5750 E Sahara Ave #105, Las Vegas

Peppermill Fire Side Lounge

This old-school Vegas establishment is a must-see classic. It has been around since 1972 and serves as a reminder of how the Vegas Strip used to look. They have wonderfully gigantic fruity cocktails to get you in the Vegas mood.

Location: 2985 Las Vegas Blvd

Mesa Grill- Ceasar’s Palace

Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill restaurant closed down in 2020. However, in its place stands Amalfi. Flay’s first Italian restaurant Amalfi is inspired by Flay’s extensive travels to the Amalfi Coast, transporting guests to the Mediterranean.

Location: 3570 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas

The Bootlegger Italian Bistro

Here Bourdain met up with Laura Shaffer, known in Vegas as the Noir Nightingale, and reminisced on what Vegas used to mean. The Bootlegger is a local’s joint. However, some tourists searching for Sinatra’s Vegas also seem to find their way here.

Location: 7700 S Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, NV

Lotus of Siam

Lotus of Siam is known for its distinctive Northern Thai cuisine. Their Chef Saipin is has received several awards while at Lotus. You have to try their KHAO SOI; a crispy duck served on a bed of egg noodles with curry base sauce garnished with sliced red onions, lime, and pickled vegetables.

Location: 953 E Sahara Ave A5, Las Vegas, NV

É by José Andrés- The Cosmopolitan

É offers a clever and creative tasting menu of Spanish avant-garde dishes. The restaurant is found in a small private room juxtaposing Jaleo’s bustling restaurant. É only has two seatings available per night. So it is no surprise that reservations may have to be made three months in advance.

Location: 3708 S Las Vegas Boulevard

Huntridge Tavern

Huntridge Tavern is a historic neighborhood tavern adored by locals. This iconic dive bar hosts karaoke nights every Tuesday and other events throughout the months. It is a must to visit if you’re looking for a local and bourbon kind of night.

Location: 1116 E Charleston Boulevard


Raku is one of the best Japanese restaurants in Las Vegas! This five-time James Beard semi-finalist is outstanding. Raku’s signature dishes are poached egg with uni and Ikura and Wagyu Ishiyak! They import all of their charcoal and condiments directly from Japan, making their dishes that much more special. Anthony Bourdain ate sea urchin, tuna, Japanese river crab, juicy deep-fried chicken, hamachi belly, and fish collar.

Location: 5030 West Spring Mountain Road

Oscar’s Steakhouse- Plaze Hotel Casino

Bourdain sat with former Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman at his namesake Oscar’s Steakhouse and talked about the city’s mob history. They enjoyed some delicious steaks and bonded over some martinis. Oscar Goodman, the former mob attorney, turned mayor, now works with tourism officials.

Location: 1 South Main Street


Anthony Bourdain visited more than just restaurants and bars. In his Vegas adventures, he drove envy-inspiring cars down along the desert in Hunter S. Thompson style, wandered through The Neon Museum Bone Yar with a Sammy Davis Jr. impersonator. He also visited Ariel down at The Mermaid Lounge, beheld The International Accordion Convention in awe, and walked down Fremont street begrudgingly eating a deep-fried twinkie and oreo. Twinkielicious!

The new documentary Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 11, 2021, and was released in the United States on July 16, 2021, by Focus Features.


Featured image: Shutterstock 


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